It’s that time again where we gather some great weekend travel inspiration from our fellow world travelers. This week, on Rendezvous with Rovers, we interview Ana from A Restless Traveler who has been to some really exciting places.
Please introduce yourself, how you began traveling, how often you travel, and such.
I usually tell people that traveling is in my DNA as both my mom and dad come from long lines of immigrants and travelers and that thus I have no option but to go out and explore the world. The truth is I’m the child of a Chilean dad and Mozambican mom and grew up in both countries so, even if traveling isn’t in my DNA, it was always a part of my life.
My first solo trip was in 2012 when I quit my job and bought a one way ticket to Thailand. I spent the next 6 months exploring and falling in love with southeast Asia. That trip opened my eyes to the world of long term traveling and I’ve basically never stopped traveling since then. However, being always on the move can be quite tiring, plus I need to fund my trips, so I’ve since got certified to teach English as second language and will settle down for a year at a time in different countries/cities where I will find a job and explore the area during school holidays and weekends before moving on to the next destination. This way not only do I earn some money but I get to experience what it’s really like to live in different countries.
Can you describe your travel philosophy?
I’m 110% a backpacker. The very laid back and relaxed type of backpacker. I only ever make very rough plans when picking destinations. That doesn’t mean I don’t do exhaustive research before gong somewhere. It just means that once I’ve read through a million pages of information and picked my next destination, I prefer to leave my days open for whatever I feel like doing on the day.
The mere idea of traveling with a suitcase, staying at fancy hotel and having a set itinerary crammed with “to do” and “to see” items scares me. Its not just about stretching the $, (although thats definitely part of it) its just that when I travel I want to interact with the local people and in my experience fancy hotels seem to go out of their way to make this impossible.
As for tours, I avoid them but I’m not totally against them. Sometimes day tours are the only way you have of visiting certain places. For example if you visit San Pedro de Atacama in the north of Chile some of the sights -the geysers, and lakes- are only accessible with tours and missing out on them just because I didn’t want to go on a tour would be absurd.
Do you travel alone or with a partner? What have you learned from either being alone so much or traveling with the same person for extended periods of time.
I travel alone but my best friend will meet up with me once a year for two or three weeks wherever it is I am at the moment. The first time she joined me was a difficult and slightly unpleasant experience because we are actually quite different. She’s more the suitcase and resort type and not a fan of walking – or any other form of exercise really – so it wasn’t easy to plan activities that we would both enjoy. But with time we’ve managed to find a middle ground where both of us are happy and our yearly encounters tend to be a highlight of the year.
Besides my best friend some of my other friends and family have occasionally joined me for short periods of time. Just this summer my father spent 9 weeks with me in Turkey and the Caucasus.
Any advice for traveling with partners?
My first advice would be to be careful. I’ve seen many friendships and relationships end during long trips abroad. Traveling often means being together 24/7 and thats definitely not the same as spending a few hours together everyday or every couple of days like you might be doing back at home so make sure you are both on the same page. Do you both want to visit that museum? If not, then be open to the possibility of doing different things. Nobody is forcing you to do everything together just because you are traveling together!
What types of things are you interested in while you are traveling?
If I only had a few weeks of holiday per year I wouldn’t think twice and choose a relaxing beach holiday with a side of history and culture (I LOVE ruins). But as it is, I’m traveling full time and no matter how much you enjoy a certain activity you will get tired of it if you do it 365 days a year. So now I often find myself planning hikes and trips to deserts and mountains which a couple of years back I would never have imagined myself doing.
Even so, I must admit that no matter how much I’m trying to diversify the sites I visit, I do try to steer clear of large cities. They drain me. I find a few days in cities like New York, London or Istanbul to visit a few museums, galleries and shows more than enough. In fact, more than a few days and I quickly become disenchanted, overwhelmed and start hating everything about them.
What are some of the places that you just found enchanting during your travels?
Luang Prabang and the 4000 islands, both in Laos, were amazing. They are about as laid back as it’s possible to get and they are not even by a beach. Although they are by a river so there’s still that soothing sound of water.
Anybody wanting to relax and just kick back and read a book should go. And if you can’t imagine yourself spending days on end lying on your back reading then there’s enough to do to keep you busy anyways. Luang Prabang has two awesome waterfalls nearby that are totally worth a visit and every night they have a night market with loads of interesting things on display. Don Det in the 4000 Islands is one of the few places were you can see the rare Irrawaddy river dolphins and cycling the islands is a wonderful and fun way of seeing both how the locals live and the natural beauty of the place.
Another favourite is Mozambique Island, though seeing as I’m from Mozambique I’m probably a bit biased. In other words, don’t take my word for it and go check it out yourself! Once you are there what you will find is a small island a mere 3.5kms from the mainland and surrounded by the Indian ocean’s clear turquoise waters. Because of its strategic location the island was the capital of Portuguese East Africa until 1898 and served as a trading post for Arab traders long before the arrival of the Portuguese. As such it’s steeped with history wherever you lay your eyes. If you need more than history then a short dhow ride will take you to nearby breathtaking beaches on the mainland or other small nearby islands. There is no organized scuba center so I highly recommend you take a snorkel and revel in all the incredible underwater sea-life.
How did you get started travel blogging? Are there any lessons you can pass on to us about travel blogging?
After years of hearing my friends back home tell me I should start a blog or write a book I finally decided to heed their advice and I’m really glad I did. On one hand my friends and family are really happy they can finally read up about my adventures and on the other it helps me to focus and remember the important things.
Blogging is definitely enhancing my traveling experience. Particularly because right now I’m working on recaps of the many trips I’ve been on these past few years and this has made me realize that there are so many details I’ve forgotten and wish I hadn’t. The idea is that in the near future, when I start writing things soon after being on the trips this blog will mean I will always have somewhere to look back on for the details.
As for stress, I wouldn’t say writing the posts is stressful but figuring out how a blog itself works has been a headache!! Sure, I say I’m writing the posts for myself and friends but I’d be lying if I said a part of me didn’t want it to become a successful blog and for that there are so many things I need to learn! It’s a crazy world full of acronyms I’d never heard before, like SEO and DA. Not to mention all the social media tie-ins I’m supposed to be partaking in as well.
Having said how headachy I’m finding the introduction to the blogging world I must also say the blogging community has been an amazing discovery. Everybody has been so supportive its hard not to think of some bloggers as friends I simply haven’t had the pleasure of meeting face to face yet.
Do you have a place, experience, or food that stands out as one of your favorites?
Whenever I reminisce about the places my traveling has taken me to, and the various assortments of food I’ve had in them, there is always one that brings a smile to my face. Georgia, the country not the state. Georgian cuisine is sublime, I don’t recall a single dish not being to my liking. But the reason it really stands out is because it was so unexpected. When you go to a country like Thailand, Greece or Italy you know beforehand that their cuisine is great but I had never heard of Georgian food so when I tried it for the first time I was completely unprepared for the assault on my tastebuds. Simply put, I spent a month in Georgia tasting as many dishes as I could and falling in love with all of them.
Have you had a once in a life time experience, someplace you’re happy to have visited but you probably don’t want to return?
Istanbul. Just this summer I spent a week in Istanbul and although I loved visiting the mosques, the Hagia Sophia etc. It was just too hectic for me. I need silence and nature in my life so by the end of the week in Istanbul I was going crazy from all the big city chaos.
What is your next destination and what are you looking forward to doing there?
Right now I’m planing a 14 month trip crossing Asia by land. The idea is to start in Turkey and end in China. By planning, I basically mean saving up $$$ and figuring out the visa applications because from previous experience I know it’s useless to actually plan a route. Having said that, some of the highlights of the trip I’m sure will be Iran, Uzbekistan and the Philippines. At least, these are the three places I’m really looking forward to exploring and know I will visit them no matter what. The photos I’ve seen and stories I’ve heard of these places are so incredible I can’t believe I’m finally going! To set foot in Samarkand or Persepolis, both such incredibly historic places, will be a dream come true. And in the Philippines the plan is to get back to scuba diving, something I have’t done in years.
Also, because I can’t sit still, and the above trip is only for next year June, this Christmas I’m meeting up with a friend in Budapest for a week. But if I’m honest I haven’t even started planning what we’ll do there. Instead I keep researching the Stans and Iran.
If you could inspire someone to start traveling, which place would you recommend to him or her as a good starting destination and why?
Oh, this is a hard one. I think it would depend a lot on the person I was hoping to inspire. For a city dweller who loves shopping, hiking the Inca trail will hardly be inspiring whereas for an ancient history buff and lover of nature it might be life changing.
As for a place I wouldn’t recommend anyone to go to on a first trip it would have to be India. Don’t get me wrong, India has some amazing sights and everybody could benefit from a trip there, but as a first destination it’s just a bad idea. The shock isn’t just cultural, its more gut-wrenching than that. Seeing all the poverty was a shock even to me that grew up in sub-Saharan Africa. So, unless what you want is to have all your first-world-country privileges thrown at your face then please don’t go to India on your first trip abroad.
Do you have any other stories, info, advice, etc. that you would love to tell us?
Pack light. Wether you are backpacking or taking a 4 wheeler suitcase packing light is always the way to go. It just makes everyone’s life so much easier. Trust me, if you are ever in a situation where you need something you didn’t pack, odds are you can find it for sale wherever it is you are. So instead of it being a negative thing, you can just see it as an excuse to go shopping. And if you don’t like shopping think of it as an anthropological research into the shopping habits of the locals! ;)